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Why Does My Computer Run Slow

Updated on July 9, 2012

Why Your Computer Is Slow and How To Speed It Up

Here are the main reasons why your computer is running slow and how to resolve each one of them.

Hardware issues that can slow your computer down.

  1. Your computer has a slow processor.
  2. Your computer does not have enough ram.
  3. Your Hard Drive is too slow or is dying.

Software Issues that can slow your computer down.

  1. Way to many items in your startup.
  2. Unnecessary services starting automatically.
  3. Viruses, Spyware, Adware, (malware).
  4. Security software that uses too much CPU and Memory
  5. Graphic intensive desktop environment.
  6. Invalid registry entries.
  7. Highly fragmented hard drive.
  8. Outdated Drivers and Software.

Slow Processor

Your computers processor (A.K.A the CPU or Central Processing Unit) is what actually performs all the work. It can calculatate billions of operations per second. The CPU executes program code and returns results to ram and/or hard disk.

So, the faster the processor and the more cores it has the faster your programs will execute and return results. If your processor is slow, or just not fast enough for you then it's time to upgrade.

There are hundreds of processors on the market and more being created every day. In order for you to upgrade your processor you must consult your computers motherboard documentation to see what type of processor your computer uses. Once you have acquired that information you can visit your local\online computer store and order a processor upgrade.

Upgrading the processor is delicate task and should only be performed by a competent professional. If you're feel'in brave and would like to upgrade your CPU without someones help check out the videos below.

Not Enough Memory - And How To Get More!

First, what is RAM anyway?

What RAM (Memory) Looks Like

RAM physically looks like a 4 inch circuit board with tightly packed microchips. These RAM "sticks" easily snap into your motherboard making upgrades really easy!

What RAM (Memory) Does

RAM (or Random Access Memory) is temporary storage for executable program code (your programs like Microsoft Word). When the processor becomes free and is ready to process more program code (MS Word for Example) it looks to RAM and basically says "give me something to process". The RAM then "feeds" the processor as much information as the processor can take.

When you have enough RAM...

  • The more RAM your computer has the more programs your computer can run at the same time without experiencing drastic slow downs
  • More RAM also means you'll be hearing a lot less of that annoying hard drive crunching noise!
  • Your computers startup time and post startup time is drastically reduced

Below are some symptoms of not having enough RAM:

  • slow program execution
  • almost non-stop hard drive activity
  • seeing lots of the hourglass
  • horrible startup times

How much RAM do you need for your PC? Well obviously more is better, but here are minimum requirements I give my clients:

  • Windows XP - 512 Megabytes minimum
  • Windows Vista - 2 Gigabytes minimum

Here's how to find out how much RAM your PC has:

  1. Right-Click "My Computer" in XP or "Computer" in Vista
  2. Click Properties
  3. You can see your RAM value in this windows either in GB or MB

Now, not to confuse you even more but there are many types of RAM and finding out which kind you need can be daunting.

I personally use because you can find out exactly which RAM is right for your PC in 3 simple steps and then buy it for a fraction of what you local computer store would charge you.

Slow Or Damaged Hard Drives

Meet the slowest part of your computer, the Hard Drive.

The Hard Drive is a rewritable disc that contains your computers operating system, program files and personal files (like documents, pictures, etc).

So, why is it the slowest part of your computer?

The answer, moving parts. Any device that functions via moving parts is much much slower than non-moving devices such as RAM, Processors and Data Buses.

How does the hard drive work?

Hard Drives consist of a magnetic disc (also called a platter) that is spun at a very high rate. During this spinning process an "arm" is moved up and down across the disk writing patterns of 0's and 1's which form your data. This arm also reads data in the same fasion.

SATA Interface
SATA Interface
EIDE Interface
EIDE Interface

Can I speed my hard drive up?

No. Your hard drive is as fast as it's going to get. Hard Drive performance is measured in RPM's (revolutions per minute). The more RPM's the disc (or platter) is spun at the faster data can be read and/or written.

You're not "stuck" with the hard drive you have now, it can be upgraded. Upgrading the hard drive can be tricky because you can make 1 mistake that can wipe out all your personal data.

So, what kind of hard drive should you get?

First, you need to find out what type of hard drive you have: SATA or EIDE (PATA).  Next, look at the RPM's. The RPM's should be at least 7200 RPM.  Finally make sure the hard drive is the same size as your current drive or larger.


Optimize That Startup

If there is one thing you get from this Hub make sure this is it! Your Windows startup consists of programs that will automatically be loaded and started when your computer boots.

This loading and starting happens all at once!!! This is the #1 cause for people to say "!@#$ this slow computer!".

The following steps below will show you how to optimise your windows startup:

  1. Click start on XP or Click the globe on Vista.
  2. Click "run" in XP. Vista users will type the following command where it says "start search"
  3. Type: msconfig
  4. Click the "startup" tab
  5. Now, you'll see abunch of checkmarks and some text next to each one (see image A). These are items that are starting up each time your computer boots. Keep in mind that everyone of these items use RAM, Processor and Hard Drive resources all at the same time (at boot-time).

  6. Please uncheck any items that you don't want to start automatically. Hint: I personally only allow my antivirus to start, everything else I uncheck. If I need to use it then I'll start it manually.
  7. After you're finished unchecking items please click apply and then reboot your PC.
  8. Ahhhh...much better!! What a fast startup now.
  9. You will be presented with a window (see image B). Please click the checkmark and then click OK.

Windows Vista Desktop That Is Not Optimized
Windows Vista Desktop That Is Not Optimized

Optimise Your Desktop Environment

If you think your desktop looks pretty then you're probably using too much your RAM and Processor just to "draw" that shiny, transparent and generally sexy desktop.

If you're serious about running your computer at maximum speed then you need to choose a very plain, low resource intensive desktop environment. The following steps below will show you how to accomplish this in Windows XP and in Windows Vista.

On Windows XP:

  1. Right Click "My Computer"
  2. Click Properties
  3. Click the Advanced Tab
  4. Under Performance click Settings
  5. Click the radio button "Adjust For Best Performance"
  6. Click Apply
  7. Your screen will go gray for a few seconds while your desktop is being optimized for the best possible performance.
  8. When the optimization has been completed click Ok.

How to optimise the Windows Vista desktop environment:

  1. Right Click "Computer".
  2. Click Properties.
  3. On the top left of the screen click "Advanced System Settings".
  4. Under performance click settings.
  5. Click the radio button "Adjust For Best Performance"

  6. Click Apply
  7. Your screen will go gray for a few seconds while your desktop is being optimised for the best possible performance.
  8. When the optimization has been completed click Ok.
  9. You Desktop will now look like:

An Optimized Vista Desktop

Goodbye shiny, transparent windows...Hello Performance!!
Goodbye shiny, transparent windows...Hello Performance!!

Get The Best Antivirus!

Using a "top notch" antivirus solution is an absolute must. If your PC gets infected with just one trojan virus that single infection can explode into hundreds of other infections leaving your PC pretty much useless!

Personally, I highly recommend PC Tools Spyware Doctor With AntiVirus.

I have tested Spyware Doctor With Antivirus on a highly infected virtual machine with about 800+ pieces of malware. Spyware Doctor with Antivirus is one of only a few Anti-Malware applications that have the ability to completely clean a machine automatically and with very little fuss. 

You can watch my full review of Spyware Doctor With Antivirus on my YouTube channel @ or simply watch the conclusion below.

Spyware Doctor With AntiVirus Free Scan 

Also, please remember that your computer should only have 1 antivirus loaded at a time.  

Spyware Doctor With Antivirus Review Conclusion

Disable Services That Aren't Needed

On a Windows XP/Vista home pc there are quite a few services that really aren't needed for the average home user. Preventing these services from starting automatically can save you valueable processor and ram resources.

If you don't feel comfortable about disabling windows services you can set them to start manually.

If you take a look below, you'll see the list of services that can be set to manual or disabled:

  • Alerter - Disabled
  • COM+ Event System - Disabled
  • COM+ System Application - Disabled
  • Computer Browser - Manual or Disabled
  • Distributed Link Tracking Client - Disabled
  • Distributed Transaction Coordinator - Disabled
  • Error Reporting Service - Disabled
  • Help and Support - Disabled
  • Indexing Service - Disabled
  • IPSEC Services - Disabled
  • Messenger - Disabled
  • NetMeeting Remote Desktop Sharing - Disabled
  • Network DDE - Disabled
  • Network DDE DSDM - Disabled
  • NT LM Security Support Provider - Disabled
  • Performance Logs and Alerts - Disabled
  • Portable Media Serial Number - Disabled
  • QoS RSVP - Disabled
  • Remote Desktop Help Session Manager - Disabled
  • Remote Procedure Call (RPC) Locator - Disabled
  • Remote Registry Service - Disabled
  • Routing and Remote Access - Disabled
  • Secondary Logon - Disabled
  • Security Accounts Manager - Disabled
  • Smart Card - Disabled
  • Smart Card Helper - Disabled
  • SSDP Discovery Service - Disabled
  • System Event Notification - Disabled
  • Task Scheduler - Disabled
  • TCP/IP NetBIOS Helper Service - Disabled
  • Telnet - Disabled
  • Uninterruptible Power Supply - Disabled
  • Universal Plug and Play Device Host - Disabled
  • Volume Shadow Copy - Disabled
  • WebClient - Disabled
  • Windows Time - Disabled
  • WMI Performance Adapter - Disabled

Red = Fragmented Files (bad) Blue = Non-Fragmented Files (good)
Red = Fragmented Files (bad) Blue = Non-Fragmented Files (good)
Windows Vista Defragmenter
Windows Vista Defragmenter

Hard Drive Fragmentation

Hard Drive fragmentation occurs when you save a file on your hard drive. During this process the hard drive may be performing many actions and can't always save the file in one continuous "chunk of data.

In an effort to provide you as much speed as possible when you save a file the hard drive will "fragment" the file all over the hard drive disc. Sounds confusing huh? Like your file is broken? It's not.

When you want to open and read that file (it could be a large word document for example) your computer will find all the fragments of data on the hard drive and then reasemble the is where things get slow.

Imagine that you have hundreds or thousands of fragmented files! Your computer has to process the reassembly of each file from thousands of fragments! Ouch. That could take awhile.

Fortunatley for us fragmented people, there is a very simple solution! Windows XP and Windows Vista both ship with free hard drive defragmenting software that is super easy to use.

Hard drive defraggers simply scan the hard drive for file fragments and put them back together. Once those fragments are reassembled via the defragger your files will open faster and your computer (in general) will run so much better.

You should defragment your hard drive once a week. If you're not sure how to launch the windows disk defragger here are some instructions for Windows XP and Vista

To start the Windows XP Disk Defragmenter:

  1. Click Start
  2. All Programs
  3. Accessories
  4. System Tools
  5. Disk Defragmenter

To use the Windows XP Disk Defragmenter:

  1. Select your C: drive (or any other hard drive)
  2. Click Defragment
  3. Wait for it to finish

Here's how to load the Windows Vista Disk Defragmenter.

  1. Click The Windows Globe to the left (a.k.a - start)
  2. All Programs
  3. Accessories
  4. System Tools
  5. Disk Defragmenter

To use the Windows Vista Disk Defragmenter

  1. Choose a schedule for disk defragmentation to occur. Make sure that your computer will be on during that time.
  2. Or, choose defragment now.

Now, a lot of people were really disappointed in the new Windows Vista defragmenter for1 progress bar of any sort. While this is disappointing, in my opinion it's no big deal.


Since you can schedule a defrag at any time (like in the middle of the night) who really cares!!!

Outdated Software - Do those windows updates!

Believe it or not, the Microsoft software development teams are always working hard to keep your pc running safe, inutituve and as fast as possible.  Microsoft makes it really easy to update your Windows PC.

To Check for and install Windows XP Critical Updates:

Go to and click the express scan button.  After the express scan finishes install any updates that are available for installation.

To Check for and install Windows Vista Critical Updates: 

  1. Click the Windows Globe at the bottom left.
  2. Click Control Panel
  3. Click Windows Update
  4. Click Check For Updates
  5. Install Any Updates Found 

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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I enjoyed reading your article. In addition to your wonderful steps, I would also recommend Krojam Cleaner. It has worked great for me.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Hmm it seems like your site ate my first comment (it was super long) so I guess I'll just sum it up what I had written and say, I'm thoroughly enjoying your blog. I too am an aspiring blog writer but I'm still new to the whole thing. Do you have any tips for inexperienced blog writers? I'd definitely appreciate it. registry scanner

    • mrizos profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from St. Louis

      what am I selling?

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      With over half a century in computers I think I should know what I am talking about as per my article just because you don't agree with it does not make you an expert. Still I have got this type of reaction from money grubbers before.

      They do say "if you can't stand the heat you should stay out of the kitchen"

      So quite happy that you should delete it after all it might wake people up to what you and your fellow grabbers are up to....

    • mrizos profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from St. Louis

      I would delete the comment above, but I need people to see how much of an idiot someone like Peter is. He has no idea about how to speed your computer up.

      Getting on the internet is fine.

      Don't listen to crack pots like this guy.

      It's laughable actually. What a moron....

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Simple, if you do not use the Internet your computer will be smooth, fast and give little or few problems as the first day you bought it. Many virus companies put viruses on the Internet just to be able to offer you fixes so you will keep using their software and eventually pay them money to use their program.

      Many of the so-called cracks for programs are submitted by the very companies that produce programs (I don't really blame them as they spend time and money to give people decent programs) so the cracks you download will corrupt your computer.

      The so-called speed up programs insert a slow down robot on your computer. Tell you the program has found 10 or 20 problems and will fix them free. When you activate the free fix they ask for money, then after running their programme your computer that has been slowed by their program suddenly speeds up again to its original speed.

      If at the end of 12 months you do not renew your subscription the slow down robot will activate and make your top of the range computer have the speed of an old 1990's computer.

      The above is not just a case of scare mongering. As an experiment we placed two identical computers alongside each other. One connected to the Internet and one not connected to the Internet, after only one week of usage the Internet computer was running at only half the speed of the independent computer.

      Further to the experiment we set up a computer with two separate partitions on the hard drive with two completely different systems. With one system we installed a virus and spy ware program. Then starting the second system we connected to the Internet.

      Going to several websites finally an automatic read-down program from the internet started and could not be halted until it finally informed us that there were viruses and problems on the computer and to click on the link for a free fix.

      We immediately switched off the computer and starting up in the second independent system. After running several scans for viruses and problems the program informed us there were NONE.

      Basically many of these problems are based on the gullibility of computer users around the world in an effort by companies or persons to extract money.

      Many people currently set up their computers with the Linux or the Apple Mac system for interknitting. At the moment this seems reasonably secure. However it is only a matter of time before these systems are finally hacked and corrupted. Another scenario is with the ever-increasing technology in pads and cell phones moving towards computer and Internet technologies it is only a matter of time before these also become affected.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      How can I remove virus from my computer without using anti-virus? Can you give me some more experience about it?

      please help.......

      thank you for your help

    • profile image

      bhupender arya 

      6 years ago

      sir my 1 Gb RAM on my pc is still slow shut-down 'till she gets up very late start on the sir give me a measure.

      thanks & regards

      Bhupender arya

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      tanks a lot

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      tried to carry out some of your fixes,computer says i must be an administrator,this is my home pc.!!!.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      will this fix my sound problem? also my smart card says it has stopped. do I need it? not very good with computers but will certainly follow the steps you have given and will let you know how I get on.

      kind regards

    • profile image


      7 years ago


    • profile image

      Bird is the Word 

      7 years ago

      The simple questions answered well. good job.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Where is the video about upgrading your cpu ?

    • gramsmith profile image


      8 years ago

      Lots of people facing this problems.This article will help and solve this problem.I appreciate your work.Thanks........

    • profile image

      Rebecca Griesemer 

      8 years ago

      Thanks for explaining too me about how much ram is needed to use. You was very helpful becuse I do not know much

      about a computer are how to use one I am still learning

      so thank you very much Rebecca

    • mrizos profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from St. Louis

      @Miss Howler - Well thanks! I try to make all my Hubs easy to follow for everyone.

    • profile image

      Miss Howler 

      8 years ago

      Btw...The Issue ended up being I wasn't aware My Service Pack3 wasn't well as showed me how to turn of certain Item Not to start-up when I booted up my pc.-Again Thank you.

    • profile image

      Miss Howler 

      8 years ago

      Well Hello! Thank you for explaining in very easy terms to follow.For someone like me who isn't very Pc savvy...I was able to use the info you provided and execute them sucessfully.I appreciate coming to a site that wasn't complicated nor did it require a buncha of red tape Bs hoops to jump thru..jus to help solve my issue.-Miss Howler

    • profile image

      Abu Xyla 

      8 years ago

      Thaks for very good detailed instructions, god bless you!

    • profile image

      Ember Knows Best 

      9 years ago

      Very detailed instructions, keep on going!

    • chandanakumarct profile image


      9 years ago from Bangalore

      mrizos, Thanks for your valuable inputs.

      @ Jill Torgerson, At your Run type services.msc.

      Then Disable the required services there. Thanks.

    • profile image

      Jill Torgerson 

      9 years ago

      How do I disable services which aren't needed? I would like to do this but can't figure out how. I have XP on a Dell laptop. Jill

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I cnt believe i actually read this page from head 2 toe and i was intreged cause its the first web i read and like... i followed every step and its simply the most helpful that i would recommend it

    • johnpol78 profile image


      9 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Mrizos I also have started hubing around here.. it would be pleasure if you visit mine and give your opinions and comments on them.

    • mrizos profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from St. Louis

      @johnpol78 - thanks a lot John! I usually publish at least 1 hub a week on a variety of subjects.

    • johnpol78 profile image


      9 years ago from United Kingdom

      Really the concerns pointed out here plays a major part in any individuals computer experience.

      Thanks a lot for the infor shared along hope to see a lot from you here on hubpages..

      Take Care bye by then

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Thank you very much my computer is excellent now

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      When I follow you instructions my computer so fast now....thanks for the post

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      nice post!

    • mrizos profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from St. Louis

      Sure, my pleasure!

    • AEvans profile image


      9 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

      I had to defrag my computer and could not remember how to , thank you so much for providing this or I would have spent more time then normal recalling how it shoul be done. :)


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